Venue: Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 8pm Wed 27th to Sat 30th July and Wed 3rd to Sat 6th August 2011
Duration: 2hrs 20min incl interval
Tickets: adult $22/conc $18/Fringe Benefits $16/student $14/groups 10+ $16
Bookings: 8227 0505 or http://www.bakehousetheatre.com/shows/2011/misery
Playwright, Simon Moore, has adapted Stephen King's psychological horror novel for the stage. It is the story of an injured man subjected to the unwelcome attentions of a psychopathic woman. Sensitive souls should take note that there is considerable violence in this tale. There was also a film adaptation, although some of the violence was tamed.
Paul Sheldon is a Victorian era romantic fiction writer who has produced a series of novels with heroine, Misery Chastain, as the central character. He has been in his Colorado mountains hideaway writing his latest novel. Driving home in a blizzard, whilst also intoxicated, he is involved in a car accident and found by former nurse, Annie Wilkes, She takes him to her home to care for him. When he regains consciousness he finds that, instead of hospital, he is in an isolated, run down farmhouse, where Annie declares herself to be his “number one fan” and informs him that she will take care of him. His legs have been broken in the accident, so he is at her mercy.
She has found the manuscript that he has just finished, Fast Cars, a crime novel. Having read it all she declares it poor, since it is not another Misery novel. His previous novel, Misery's Child, has just been published and she is waiting to read it. It arrives and she finds that he has killed off the character of Misery, having her die in childbirth. This makes her furious and she forces him to destroy his new manuscript. She then buys an old typewriter and insists that he write another book, bringing Misery back. He quickly realises that failure to obey her commands, and any attempts at escape, bring the severest of punishments.
Director, Michael Allen, has found two terrific actors for this production and has created a tense drama that does not let up for a second. John Maurice, as Paul, offers a superb characterisation. He displays the various stages that Paul goes through with clarity, from initial bemusement, to confusion, to fear, to acute physical pain. His depiction of Paul's suffering is almost too convincing.
Joanne Hartstone, as Annie, gives a frighteningly real portrayal of the mentally disturbed Annie. Just as one can see the fear and pain in Maurice's eyes, as Paul, so one can see, at various times, the fury, the cold vindictiveness and the raging insanity in Hartstone's eyes. Her bowed demeanour and shuffling gait add to the effect and emphasise her character's mental aberrations in her finest performance to date.
Tammy Boden's stark set and costume design, coupled with Ben Flett's intricate lighting and sound design, sharply defines the location and adds to the darkness and desolation of the story. Combining all of this with the intimacy of the Bakehouse, you feel as though Annie might notice you and turn her attentions in your direction at any moment. Get your running shoes on if you want to get tickets for this one before it sells out.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.